Gian Lorenzo Bernini created for Cardinal Scipione Borghese an unprecedented masterpiece depicting the metamorphosis in laurel of the Nanny caste, Dafne, pursued in vain by Apollo, god of light.
The natural marble work, begun by Bernini at twenty-four years, between 1622 and 1625, was placed in the same room of the Villa, but originally was on a lower and narrow base, leaning against the wall to the staircase. To those who came in then, Apollo was running on his shoulders, then appeared the fleeing nymph in a crescendo of his metamorphosis: the bark wraps much of the body, but the hand of Apollo, according to the verses of Ovid, beneath the wood hears Still the heartbeat. So the scene closes, Dafne has become a laurel to escape the divine aggressor.
The presence of this pagan fable in the cardinal’s house was justified with a moral distinction composed in Latin by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini (future Pope Urbano VIII) and engraved in the map of the base, which says: who loves to follow the fleeting forms of amusements at the end You will find loving leaves and berries in your hand.
When Marcantonio IV Borghese wished to place the work in the center of the room in 1785, Vincenzo Pacetti designed the current base using the original pieces, plastering the plinth of the group and adding another cartouche with the Borghese eagle, sculpted by Lorenzo Cardelli.